Too early to critique MNsure

The program’s initial problems should not be an indicator of its potential future successes.

Ronald Dixon

State-run health insurance exchanges courtesy of the Affordable Care Act launched nationwide last week. Minnesota’s MNsure was no exception.

From the start, the Minnesota health insurance exchange system was mired with complications. MNsure’s internal documents revealed data breach risks within the exchange system. Moreover, the federal debacle concerning funding, which led to the partial government shutdown, caused further confusion over the ACA exchanges’ vitality. Many Americans, including Minnesotans, did not even know about the new exchanges or how to apply.

Despite these obstacles, however, MNsure went online only a few hours after the predicted launch time.

So how did it do?

From initial reports, the program hit bumps affecting those trying to sign up for insurance. Errors with identification verification, dead links, the inability to save one’s progress, confusion over when coverage would actually begin (Jan. 1, 2014) and a lack of compatibility with mobile devices are just some of the problems that MNsure has faced in its first week alone.

Despite all of these issues, MNsure should not be deemed a failure — at least not yet. Open enrollment through MNsure ends March 31, 2014, so developers have ample time to fix problems with the online
exchange.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius declared that the initial problems with the insurance exchanges across the nation should be compared to the release of new Apple products.

“No one is calling on Apple to not sell devices for a year or to get out of the business because the whole thing is a failure,” Sebelius said. “Hopefully, they’ll give us the same slack they give Apple.”

Given the importance of the program, and its potential for benefiting thousands of Minnesotans, Apple products may not be the best unit of comparison. Nevertheless, we must wait to judge MNsure and the ACA until the administrators can fix the kinks.